The cherry blossom tree outside my living room window is practically bursting, which officially means it's salad season. Mind you, I've never been the girl who orders a typical lady's lunch, but a good salad is much more satisfying than spa food. And if you're lucky enough to be dining at YoMa, Allston's much-adored Burmese restaurant, make that four really good salads.
Any well executed salad contains a thoughtful mixture of contrasting elements, but I'd argue that traditional Mandalay lahpet, or pickled tea leaf salad ($8.50), is the best example of that. The leaves, which look uninvitingly damp, gray, and muddy, are actually bright and tangy and crucial to the salad's cohesion; they're the slightly adhesive matter that gently binds together clumps of shredded lettuce and cabbage, tomatoes, sesame seeds, puffed peas, fried garlic, and dark roasted peanuts.
For a long time, that was the only Burmese salad I'd ever had (or heard of), but there are 10 others on that menu, and this past weekend I tried three more. Most of them look similar, and the universal presence of peanuts and shredded cabbage made them slightly redundant to eat as a group. And yet, the defining characteristic of each one made itself well known: sweet, sour, and snappy pickled ginger threads ($8.25); ultra-plush and tender tofu that's made in-house from chickpea flour ($6.95); and a rich carb-centric salad of spicy rice and bean thread noodles that immediately seemed like a Burmese take on rice pilaf ($7.45).
By the way, these salads just happen to be meatless, but if you're a fan of Thai larb, there are a handful of meat-centered versions that revolve around familiar flavors like lime and fish sauce. Adding them to the list for next time.